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SERIE A

Pogba provisionally suspended for failing drug test

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Europa League - Semi Final - First Leg - Juventus v Sevilla - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - May 11, 2023 Juventus' Paul Pogba reacts REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights  

Juventus’ France midfielder Paul Pogba has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance, Italy’s national anti-doping (NADO Italia) tribunal said on Monday.

The test, performed after Juve’s 3-0 Serie A season-opening victory at Udinese on Aug. 20, detected testosterone, a hormone that increases athletes’ endurance.

“In acceptance of the instance proposed by the National Anti-doping Prosecutor, it has provided for the provisional suspension of the athlete Paul Labile Pogba,” NADO Italia said in a statement.

The tribunal said Pogba had violated anti-doping rules when they found the prohibited substance “non-endogenous testosterone metabolites”, adding that the results were “consistent with the exogenous origin of the target compounds”.

The 30-year-old Pogba was an unused substitute in the win at Udinese. Juventus said they had been informed of the provisional suspension and were evaluating the next steps.

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If found guilty of doping, Pogba could be suspended for between two and four years. He will now await the results of the B Sample test.

“We are waiting for the results of the counter-analysis and cannot say anything until then,” Pogba’s agent Rafaela Pimenta said in a statement reported by Italian media.

“The only certain thing is that Paul Pogba never intended to break the rules.”

TORRID SPELL

Pogba has had a torrid second spell with Juve due to injuries since he returned to the Turin-based club following his departure from Manchester United on a free transfer last year.

The 2018 World Cup winner barely played last season due to knee and hamstring injuries as well as knee surgery which prevented him playing for France at the World Cup in Qatar.

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Pogba has yet to start a game this season but has made two substitute appearances, last playing in the 2-0 win at Empoli.

Pogba’s contract with Juve expires in June 2026.

Apart from injury troubles, Pogba said last year he was the target of extortion attempts and threats from an organised gang, with his brother Mathias placed under formal investigation.

Paul told the Paris prosecution office that he had been the target of extortion by childhood friends since March 2022 and had paid 100,000 euros ($107,450) to that group in the spring.

Mathias was taken into custody in September last year and released in December. The 33-year-old, who has also played professionally, denied the allegations against him.

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In an interview with Al Jazeera published on Monday, Paul said he had considered retiring from the sport having been worn down by the alleged extortion attempts and threats.

“Sometimes I was just by myself thinking, ‘I don’t want to have money anymore. I just don’t want to play anymore. I just want to be with normal people, so they will love me for me – not for the fame, not for the money,’” he said.

-Reuters

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

SERIE A

Ademola Lookman wins Atalanta’s ‘Player of The Season Award

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles winger and silver medal winner with the country at the last AFCON 2023 tournament in Cote D’Ivoire, Ademola Lookman, has emerged as the Atalanta Player of the Season.

The pint-size forward has won the converted award Back-to-back with the Bergamo-based side after his exploit in the domestic and European matches for the side.

Atalanta qualified for two finals with the Nigerian International playing an active role in the campaign.

He was instrumental to Atalanta winning the UEFA Europa League beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the final with the Nigerian scoring all the goals.

The club announced on its official website on Thursday saying, “It’s him again, Ademola Lookman! The reigning champion defends his title and is crowned straight-a student for the second year in a row after staving off an unsparing competition, to the point of both bringing the contest to an overtime runoff and stepping the pose down up to the Instagram profile after the regular session ended in a tie. Kudos to Mola for his back-to-back Player of the Season!” it noted.
It went further that,” building on his 17 goals and 11 key passes in all competitions (making him the team’s second-best seasonal scorer and wingman) and with the hat-trick scored in the magical Dublin final as his main leg-up, Lookman tips the ItalianOptic branded crown once again,” the web remarked.

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Aside from Ademola, the second and third-best positions were also announced as the midfield duo of Jose dos Santo Éderson and Teun Koopmeiners.

The Nigerian had a brilliant AFCON experience with Nigeria where he scored three goals and his exploits so far have put him in strong contention to win the next ‘African Footballer of the Year’ award which will come up before the end of the year at a venue yet to be announced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen is the reigning winner of the award alongside Asissat Oshoola who retained the version.

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SERIE A

Napoli reduces Victor Osimhen’s value

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Former Serie A champions Napoli are reportedly ready to drop their asking price for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen as his future grows ever more uncertain.

The 25-year-old is looking for a move away from Serie A but Napoli’s initial €150M release clause has warned off any potential suitors.

Quoting from another Italian outlet, Calciomercato, Getfootballnewsitaly reports that Napoli are ready to lower the initial valuation to €100M, in the hope that they can free up much needed transfer funds for new boss Antonio Conte, who is understood to be desperate to land Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku this summer.

It is also stated that the English Premier League sides, Chelsea who were understood to be in pole-position to sign the Nigerian international, has never opened any negotiation with the 2023 Serie A champions.

The only avenues open at this time seem to be the Saudi Pro-League, where a reported salary of €40M a season has been offered, or Paris Saint-Germain, with Osimhen not keen on either option, preferring a move to the English Premier League.

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes end with 0-0 draw against Lecce

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If Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen remains in Napoli in the next season, he will not have any action in UEFA competitions.

Napoli lost their slim chances to participate in European competitions next season when they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Lecce in their last Serie A game of the campaign on Sunday.

Last season’s champions Napoli finished 10th on 53 points, level with ninth-placed Torino who were beaten 3-0 at Atalanta in a simultaneous kick off on Sunday.

Despite their loss, Torino can now still earn a Europa Conference League playoffs spot if eighth-placed Fiorentina, who have a game in hand, win the Europa Conference League.

Fiorentina face Greece’s Olympiacos for the title on Wednesday.

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Napoli needed a win to maintain their European hopes but despite 24 shots, five of them on target, they ended their disappointing campaign winless in their last seven games.

Substitute Cyril Ngonge had a good chance to give Napoli the lead just after the break but his shot from the edge of the box was saved by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Jens Cajuste hit the far post with a low strike shortly before Ngonge hit the bar in the 64th minute.

Europa League winners Atalanta, meanwhile, secured at least fourth spot after Gianluca Scamacca, Ademola Lookman and Mario Pasalic were all on target in a 3-0 win against Torino.

They sit fourth on 69 points but can still leapfrog third-placed Juventus, on 71 points, if they beat Fiorentina in their last remaining game next Sunday.

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-Reuters

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